February 18, 2013 / 1:20 PM / in 5 years

Russia's Metalloinvest denies talks to sell copper deposit

MOSCOW, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Russia’s largest iron ore miner Metalloinvest on Monday denied it was in official talks to sell the country’s largest untapped copper deposit.

Russia’s Norilsk Nickel had been invited to join the Udokan project as a partner a couple of months ago, state industrial conglomerate Rostec, which is also involved in the project, said last week.

Metalloinvest said it was not in official negotiations to sell the company that manages the licence for the Udokan copper deposit. Udokan, the world’s third-largest copper deposit, contains an estimated 24.6 million tonnes of the ductile metal.

“Preliminary discussions were not official,” Metalloinvest said in the statement. “The company believes that an estimate for Udokan copper deposit discussed in media, significantly undervalues the deposit and does not reflect its market value.”

Norilsk, the world’s top nickel and palladium miner, is not in talks to buy a stake in Udokan, Norilsk co-owner and CEO Vladimir Potanin said last week.

Taken together with recent comments by industry sources, the official statements from Norilsk and Metalloinvest may suggest that talks on Udokan, which would cost an estimated $8 billion to develop did not go beyond an exploratory stage.

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